Yesterday’s entry exhausted me and I am loathed to tackle Part Two of Travel HELL today. I’m going to keep you on tenterhooks awaiting the next episode.
Instead, I’m going to let you into a little dirty secret of mine.
I’m going to become a tour guide.
I’m not going the whole hog though – just the odd Monday afternoon here and there this spring and autumn. Just dipping my toes in. Just enough to feel a little bit naughty and filthy without actually having to tell people I’ve stopped acting and am now a tour guide.
This morning my new English friend Jean took me and another chap, an already-qualified-and-experienced professional tour guide, on the Gorges de l’Ardèche circuit, talking us through the tour as she drove, with us scribbling all the info down in notepads as we weaved nauseatingly along the bendy roads. In fact I didn’t do much scribbling. I sat there like a dazed tourist taking it all in while my phone recorded Jean’s babble. And very interesting babble it was too. I learnt more about the history, geography, geology, gastronomy, statistics, sporting activities, faune and flora of the area in two hours than I’ve learnt over the past four years. And the drive is stunning. I had forgotten how gorgeous the gorges are. We go regularly in the summer but we tend to go to the easy-for-families bit, which is still stunning and a lot less touristy, but I’m now ready for that first spring day of proper hot sunshine when I’ll be packing the boys and a picnic into the car and heading for the Vallon Pont-d’Arc end of the gorges where we shall splash and swim and sandcastle and revel in the beauty of the place (and the absence of hordes of tourists who generally arrive in July).
But I should not be snubbing tourists, if they didn’t exist I wouldn’t have had this cushy job offer. And it is indeed cushy. Four hours of chatting about the Ardèche to a coach-load of enthusiastic Americans in white bobby socks, as we drive along the most gorgeous roads in the Ardèche. Aside from the Gorges, I’ll be taking them through various little historic towns, to the Musée de Lavande and to the Madeleine (underground caves and six loos – very important for a coachload of over 60’s) where they will get hammered on the local speciality; chestnut alcohol and white wine). I’ll have a little microphone to talk into and I can’t wear jeans or flip-flops. I have heard you can earn nearly half your wages again through tips so I will be wearing a thin summer dress and no bra.
This morning however was a long cry from thin summer dresses. It was rainy and foggy – but the gorges were still beautiful. I learnt that there’s a cave guarded daily by a policeman (I assume they change the policeman from time to time) as it holds the oldest prehistoric cave-paintings ever discovered in Europe. I learnt that one of the plants you see everywhere around here contains a sort of latex when you crack it open which is deadly poisonous. I learnt that the Ferme des Crocodiles was started up when someone had the idea of using the hot steam from the nuclear power station water coolers to create a tropical climate. My mind started wandering. I shall no doubt be mixing in some made-up stuff into my guided tour. I shall tell them a wild gorilla obsessed with the colour white lives above the Pont d’Arc and await the oohs and aaahhs and stripping off of socks. I shall encourage them to slip banknotes into Ye Olde Lucky Crack in the rocks where I will have hidden Tommy and a wallet a few hours earlier. But I shall do all this with utmost respect and kindness and shall return home a few hours later with a few Rolex watches in my sandwich box.
If you would like my services as a tour guide please leave a comment and your bank details.